Interesting take on my novel “Weaponized”. Think the reviewer was totally fair, understand where he thinks it fell short, and like he found some comparisons to early Chris Nolan apt. And most of all — appreciate he took the time to check it out!
A tremendous interpretation of the man who I believe COLLAPSED NOIR with his epic “I Was Dora Suarez”…
What I suffer isn’t self-pity; it is my coming up against the absolute. The ordeal the writer sets himself is to track down existence and then, both stripped naked, fight it out. Everyone experiences this in the end, some-how or other. But often the contest is short and sharp—the last seconds of a motor crash, a fall from a roof, a heart attack, being rolled and beaten to death in a dark street.
– Derek Raymond, He Died with His Eyes Open
Of late I’ve returned to noir, reading a few of the classics and generally enjoying the nuances of the differing styles and contours of this black art of night. Recently began reading Derek Raymond’s Factory novels.
Robert William Arthur Cook, better known since the 1980s by his pen name Derek Raymond, was an English crime writer, credited with being a founder of British noir. The eldest son of…
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So the wife (and you really all should meet her, here’s her Twitter handle: @AlyMennuti) and a few regular visitors to the BLOG, said it would be a good idea for ME to spend less time talking AT my faithful readers and giving them more outside information to follow alongside my opinions/analysis.
The blog is meant to be an amorphous platform. It has one sole purpose: To document the mutations I find fascinating in society. So the platform itself must be open to mutations as well. So here we go (following sage advice) with a little format test experiment…
HBO has been going all in with event DOCUMENTARIES (and in most things TV content wise, HBO is leading the innovation charge) with THE JINX, KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK, and GOING CLEAR. Well NETFLIX (who I’ve written extensively about before) has now decided to get into the DOCUMENTARY GAME as well. Wonder if NETFLIX will follow HBO down the road of basically becoming an alternative NEWS SOURCE as well, considering HBO has JOHN OLIVER, BILL MAHER, and an upcoming daily VICE BROADCAST?
And in further NETFLIX NEWS: I’ve been saying (and I’m not alone) that it could be a severely overestimated stock despite the market’s irrational exuberance for it, because they’re going to run out of subscribers to offset the cost of all this original programming (some of which they don’t even own: HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK). Well, NETFLIX clearly knows it needs A BIGGER POOL OF SUBSCRIBERS because they’re chasing INTERNATIONAL something FIERCE: They’re talking to China (which brings a whole mess of content censorship and firewall issues, but hey, someone’s got to pay for more NARRATIVE). And they’re also considering a French “House of Cards” with Gerard Depardieu in the Kevin Spacey role.
NBC is doing something fascinating, ambitious (and potentially fatal) with AQUARIUS, the DAVID DUCHOVNY starring detective drama about the hunt for Charles Manson. They’re going to allow NBC.com and the authenticated NBC APP (plus ON DEMAND) to broadcast all 13 episodes an hour after the premiere. So this is a PREMIUM NETWORK adopting the BINGE PLATFORM onto THEIR OWN SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE. And it’s well worth watching to see if the experiment is a success.
I spend a lot of time discussing the COLLAPSE via FILM and TELEVISION, but I did a piece on PUBLISHING COLLAPSE too. One thing I noted was SERIALIZATION could be BIG. PUBLISHING has fewer CONTENT ISSUES than FILM and TV, but ironically it has a BIGGER PLATFORM ISSUE. Well after my post on SERIALIZATION and what I called “THE PAUSE” where content is granulated and chopped in BITS, I was told by MANY IN THE INDUSTRY (nameless), that PUBLISHING would never go A LA CARTE (for lack of a better term). Well, JOHN SCALZI just got #3.4 million from TOR for 13 books over 10 years, and what’s a big part of the deal: His proven success in ONLINE SERIALIZATION OF HIS CONTENT.
In a prior post/thought experiment, I discussed how NARRATIVE OWNERSHIP is the NEW MONEY. Whoever owns the most content wins. EVERY CONCEIVABLE CHANNEL is pumping out reams of internal product. And as proof that I wasn’t exaggerating when I said every channel: The True-Crime channel “Investigation Discovery” is even creating scripted content…
There’s a fascinating, must-listen interview between VC MOGUL MARC ANDREESSEN and mega-producer BRIAN GRAZER about the COLLAPSE, and in particular, how TELEVISION is where it’s at, because it’s WHERE THE AUDIENCE (therefore THE MONEY) IS…
And continuing with…WHOEVER OWNS THE MOST CONTENT WINS. Mergers are RAMPANT these days. CONSOLIDATION is usually what happens when low hanging fruit can be plucked (The low hanging fruit being: CONTENT CREATORS. And the giant mouth eating it is: PLATFORMS) And yesterday had two mergers of note: CHARTER AND TIME WARNER (today it’s on the HILL) and VOX absorbed RE/CODE, which makes sense for no content reason, except that VOX already owns THE VERGE so why leave another competing TECH WEBSITE out there…
And as a final sign off. Apparently LUXURY SHOPPING HAS COLLAPSED TOO…
Happy Holidays Collapsers!
And to celebrate, there will be no philosophical mind-bending today, just a straight-up movie recommendation:
Michael Mann‘s “Blackhat” came and went this January with ZERO FANFARE. Actually, it came and went with worse than ZERO FANFARE, it was a colossal bomb that earned it’s own write-up in Deadline testifying to just how big a BOMB it turned out to be.
Now Michael Mann has never been for everyone, and that’s before he made his frequently lamented and controversial switch to digital filming, which brought not only a new almost Cubist approach to shooting, but an equally fractured accompanying narrative technique, and “Blackhat” is the apex of the Mann’s decade long digital experiment.
It just came ON-DEMAND (Amazon, iTunes, etc…) on Tuesday, and even if you’re on the fence about Mann, it’s very much worth a look. Why? Because it actually attempts something shocking in this day and age: IT’S REALISTIC (outside of the digital artifice, but that’s Mann for you: realism plus high style).
How is it realistic? The PROTAGONIST, Nicholas Hathaway (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, JUST GO WITH IT), has actual human needs and feelings. And the ANTAGONIST, has a plan grounded in some degree of logic. In short, this movie COULD HAPPEN. Which is probably what doomed it at the box-office.
Even if you don’t like hacking movies, even if you don’t like crime movies, even if you don’t like Chris Hemsworth, BLACKHAT is one of the few recent movies that deserves to actually be called MODERN. It’s not a mythic hero’s journey narrative dressed up in today’s best CGI. It’s a semi-low-key character piece that feelings shockingly contemporary.
Give it a shot. And if you don’t like it. You can always tell me…
Early Afternoon Collapsers:
The SERIAL, the EPIC-MINISERIES, and the ANTHOLOGY.
After looking at some recent news, I’m going to go all in on ANTHOLOGY, with a smattering of SERIAL remaining. A few pieces of news turned my thinking in this direction:
These beloved shows underwent/are undergoing some serious WHIPLASH that isn’t entirely their fault; it’s built into the STRUCTURE they’re following. And that STRUCTURE, the WEEKLY TELEVISED LONG-FORM NARRATIVE, is dying.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. A much smarter man than me — MICHAEL TOLKIN — said it on the BRET EASTON ELLIS PODCAST — and he works on SHOWTIME’S RAY DONOVAN, so he actually has a dog in this fight.
So why is the WEEKLY LONG-FORM DYING?
Well I’d argue it’s been gradual, and gone through several mutations, but it’s largely the result of the BINGE-WATCH.
Ironically, when TV was in its infancy, it was in a markedly similar state to today (just tons of PROGRAMMING haphazardly hurled at the VIEWER) because of ADVERTISING. The few NETWORKS that existed gave you LIVE THEATRE, LIVE CONCERTS, VARIETY SHOWS, SYMPHONIES, SOAP OPERAS, EPISODIC SERIES.
Just reams of CONTENT of VARIED DURATION because ADVERTISING was what DICTATED THE NARRATIVE. And as I recently said: THAT RELATIONSHIP HAS TOTALLY FLIPPED. And NARRATIVE OWNERSHIP (CONTENT) is the new ADVERTISING. But i digress…
Once ADVERTISING was more subtly massaged into the VIEWING EXPERIENCE, you ended up with two basic SERIES TEMPLATES: The SITCOM and the PROCEDURAL. They were FIVE-ACTS, butchered stem-to-sternum to insert ADS.
Then HBO happened. Or let’s be exact —
THE SOPRANOS HAPPENED (Twin Peaks was a one-off, influential, but a cultural flash. And The X-Files mutated the PROCEDURAL FORMAT). And suddenly in SOPRANOS NIRVANA, the TV SHOW had become a WEEKLY SERIALIZED NOVEL (commentators compared the narrative style to Balzac, Zola, hell even a few invoked Dickens and PROUST). But this was a brand-new WAY TO TELL STORIES on TELEVISION. Take the texture of LITERARY DISCOURSE, and give it a limited run for 13 episodes (a nice Malthusian scarcity tactic, which makes me wonder was the electricity in the air that 23 episodes was getting to be too long already?).
So SOPRANOS remained the ambitious story-telling template for the next decade or so. THE WIRE, BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, etc…being it’s offspring.
AND THEN BINGE-WATCHING HAPPENED:
And PEOPLE DIDN’T WANT TO WAIT ANYMORE. Long-form novelistic structure has become a drag, it moves too slow when you’re devouring six or seven episodes at a clip. This is a DURATION MUTATION (that I’ve diagnosed before and will continue to). And just like the TELEVISED SERIAL NOVEL rocked the foundation and may have made redundant the ACTUAL NOVEL, the BINGE-WATCH has destroyed the TELEVISED SERIAL NOVEL.
And when SHOWS are designed for maximum BINGE and a DURATIONALLY MUTATED AUDIENCE who don’t want to follow SIX SEASON ARC’S anymore, what form WORKS:
John Ridley and ABC know this. Their bubble show “American Crime” just got renewed for SEASON TWO as an ANTHOLOGY SHOW. A few original cast members will return in DIFFERENT ROLES. Following in the footsteps of —
Ryan Murphy. He’s got two ANTHOLOGY SHOWS GOING. The game-changing AMERICAN HORROR STORY (which as time goes on will only be more and more influential and recognized as such), which has kept the same cast for multiple SEASONS in different roles. Murphy also has the 10-part EVENT ANTHOLOGY “AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VERSUS O.J. SIMPSON”.
Fargo knows this. It’s going to excavate backstory from the FIRST SEASON and spin it is a separate ANTHOLOGY for the SECOND SEASON. Few original cast members will return.
But the most EXTREME ANTHOLOGY EXAMPLE is HBO’S TRUE DETECTIVE, about to enter SEASON TWO, wherein literally nothing but the TONE and GENRE are set in stone. Even Fargo is at least exploring BACKSTORY from SEASON ONE. TRUE DETECTIVE is literally retaining MOOD. And the showrunner NIC PIZZOLATTO.
And that’s the strength of the ANTHOLOGY.
It requires so few of the prior season’s narrative and characteristic antecedents to keep going. So it’s cost beneficial to the NETWORK, but more importantly — it’s hard for PEOPLE TO GET BORED while BINGE-WATCHING when you CHANGE THE RULES EVERY SEASON.
The SERIAL FORMAT will survive wherever there are SHOWS based on COMICS, because half of them are all interrelated in a shared universe, and they can do CROSS-OVER’S etc…
But the future of LONG-FORM DRAMA will likely be the ANTHOLOGY. We have exhausted the LONG-FORM TELEVISED NOVEL.
And a total SIDE-NOTE: The only form more DEAD than LONG-FORM NOVELISTIC TELEVISED DRAMA is REALITY TV. You can’t BINGE-WATCH IT, and if anything was designed to SELL ADS that was it. And for proof of it’s demise — AMAZON isn’t buying the syndication anymore.
We’ve passed REALITY TV and are MUTATING LONG-FORM DRAMA…Stay tuned for what comes…
While watching episodes of Mad Men leading up to (and including the finale) — on which I will reserve judgement because we live in a DVR culture — I felt jarred.
Before the Mad Men blitz, the wife and I had watched Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York“, and regardless of how one feels about Ferrara’s penchant for material that skirts the line between gonzo sleaze and tortured Christian Idealist angst — the man is a true student of film grammar and has a master’s grasp on how to tell a VISUAL STORY.
Now I’m willing to concede that most of us (of and under a certain age) have been overexposed and exhausted by the tyranny of three-act structure and the codified character arc that makes up most FILMIC NARRATIVE, and the looseness and depth of TELEVISION NARRATIVE (whether in short bursts or BINGE FORM) has been a welcome TONIC; however, after a preparatory binge of MAD MEN, I feel comfortable saying —
TELEVISION is largely a VISUAL WASTELAND, a DESERT OF INSPIRED SHOTS.
Some of this is budgetary, some of it is delivery device related, and some of it is because TV is a purported WRITER’S MEDIUM which prizes NARRATIVE and CHARACTER over the VISUAL IMAGE (but in all honesty, what kind of WRITER’S MEDIUM holes six or seven of them up in a room to map out a whole season in advance? What WRITER would choose that?) That’s not a WRITER’S MEDIUM; that’s a NETWORK’S MEDIUM. But I digress…
TV has been making strides towards accepting singularity of vision — Nic Pizzolatto exerted near-total control over “True Detective” — and I’d argue the show benefitted from it. But it was also an ALL-STAR ANTHOLOGY ONE-OFF and could afford to take the risk.
TV may be where it’s at for the WRITTEN WORD right now; but it’s at the expense of the VISUAL. Even the most SINGULAR SHOW of all time (not the BEST), but the most singular, TRUE DETECTIVE (one writer, one director), is STILL A PALE SHADOW in terms of the VISUAL ENVELOPE OF FILM. And for comparison:
Check out the rapturously celebrated SIX-MINUTE TRACKING SHOT FROM EPISODE 4 OF TRUE DETECTIVE, and then compare it to:
The opening tracking shot of BRIAN DE PALMA’S SNAKE EYES:
And try and tell me that TELEVISION can ever, ever REPLACE FILMIC STORYTELLING on A VISUAL LEVEL at the RATE IT IS GOING. It may (and it certainly looks like) it’s going to overtake it as people’s preference to INTAKE NARRATIVE, but it will be at the expense of an entire history of VISUAL GRAMMAR.
Why is it that when great FILM DIRECTORS: Steven Soderbergh (The Knick), David Fincher (House of Cards), David Lynch (Twin Peaks) do TELEVISION —
It still looks like TELEVISION. Good television, but still TELEVISION.
If film lovers (and there are still some of us) are going to make the full commitment to TV as our only intake as ADULT-CENTERED NARRATIVE, someone needs to figure out how to increase the level of VISUAL FLUENCY ON TELEVISION.
There’s only one film director who made TELEVISION not feel like TELEVISION.
MICHAEL MANN. Check this out from his short-lived series “ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION”. After all these years, you know what show still looked the least like TELEVISION that I’ve ever seen — MIAMI VICE.
Savor that clip as my closing statement and final summation on where TV has been and where it needs TO RETURN if it’s going to offer a true alternative to FILM for ADULTS who appreciate VISUAL EXPRESSION…
…You’re talking MOBILE, where you need CONTENT, and a fully functioning AD NETWORK.
Which VERIZON didn’t have.
So your loyal MUTATION SEEKER (me) has emerged from the lab after two days of study (he’s read and listened to EVERYTHING pro and con on the SUBJECT), and is here to try and make some sense of why VERIZON paid $4.4 billion for AOL — your grandparents dial-up email service.
I don’t think it’s an accident that the day after the Verizon/AOL merger that a deal announcing AT&T is going to start offering HULU hit…
But I digress and begin with a PARANOID CRAPSHOOT THEORY FOR THE DEAL (always fun before the facts):
Part of me suspects that VERIZON picked up AOL as a sort of petulant broadsword (or the proverbial white-glove-to-the-face) against GOOGLE AND FACEBOOK. Why?
GOOGLE FI could conceivably jam-up the big telecoms (if ANDROID isn’t bitch-slapped by Europe and Canada). And FACEBOOK’S CONNECTIVITY LAB has been launching balloons, drones, and even LASERS to harness the Internet.
As The Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday: This is a war against all. The providers of SEARCH, CONTENT, and WIRELESS refuse to stay in their individuals box. And a REIGNING TELECOM wanted to strike back against GOOGLE AND FACEBOOK:
So why AOL then? That’s not much of a Maginot line:
Likely because it’s a SMALL ENOUGH DEAL that REGULATORS (FCC, DOJ) won’t get involved.
In the war between CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS (Time Warner, Verizon, etc…), the OBAMA GOVERNMENT is most decidedly on the side of DIGITAL (and it should be considering how much lobbying dollar TECH drops in their laps), and if VERIZON tried to gobble up something big, they could end up before a COMMITTEE.
So snapping up AOL flew low enough under the Government’s radar, but maybe…maybe…sent a signal to GOOGLE AND FACEBOOK, that VERIZON intends to stay in the game…
But will it really? Was this just a pyrrhic dump of over 4 billion, because in the AD TECH GAME: AOL controls .74% to GOOGLE’S, 31.4%.
So outside of my own decidedly MUTATION-HEAVY SYNTHESIS, why else DID THIS DEAL HAPPEN?
Mobile. Mobile video and how to integrate USER TRACKING and AD SALES.
People now spend over 5 hours a day on MOBILE PHONES. TELEVISION (as a physical object that is BUNDLED) will die, but we will need more and more CONTENT LIKE TELEVISION for people to stream over their phones.
But in the case of AOL/VERIZON it really isn’t ABOUT THE CONTENT:
Does anyone really want to own HUFFINGTON POST at this point (BuzzFeed and Vice have effectively buried it)? And although I love it, does VERIZON really want to own TECH CRUNCH?
And sure: AOL has STUDIO PRODUCTION centers to shoot their own shows (and being in league with VERIZON answers the question of how they’re going to achieve MAXIMUM DISTRIBUTION). Additionally, AOL will deliver 3,600 pieces of ORIGINAL VIDEO CONTENT this year including shows with JAMES FRANCO and JARED LETO.
That’s a lot of VIDEO. And it certainly is getting more important TO OWN AND DISTRIBUTE your own CONTENT in this day and age. But is AOL’S CURRENT CONTENT really WORTH $4.4. billion at this point? Especially since…
Do you really think JAMES FRANCO and JARED LETO can COMPETE WITH NFL and DREAMWORKS?
So let’s be real specific:
VERIZON didn’t buy AOL for it’s CURRENT CONTENT, but it did need a way to CREATE FUTURE IN-HOUSE CONTENT that at some point PEOPLE MIGHT WANT TO WATCH. Because even though VERIZON has deep pockets, BUYING TONS OF CONTENT does get pricey after a while…
Hell, even the VAUNTED NETFLIX and AMAZON models that are going to demolish “linear cable” still cough up over $3 billion annually to license CONTENT, because they don’t have what…
ENOUGH ORIGINAL CONTENT.
So AOL has the burgeoning infrastructure to at some point create IN-HOUSE OWNED, CONTROLLED CONTENT.
BUT THAT’S STILL NOT THE REAL REASON FOR THE DEAL:
When AOL hired TIM ARMSTRONG for CEO, he’d put put in nine years at GOOGLE, so he was basically responsible for helping to construct one of (if not THE MOST) powerful forces in ADVERTISING HISTORY. And when he got to AOL —
He ate up MARKETING FIRMS: PICTELA, CONVERTO, ADAP.TV. As well as VIDEO-FOCUSED SHOPS like: STUDIONOW, GOVIRAL, and VIDIBLE.
SO IN SUMMATION:
VERIZON paid for an ADVERTISING NETWORK to HARNESS their MOUNDS OF CUSTOMER DATA and TRACKING effectively.
Because by eating up AOL, it’s now positioned to pioneer a straight-up ADVERTISING MODEL, that could potentially outflank GOOGLE and FACEBOOK. Because who knows more about you than your PHONE NETWORK PRODIVER. GOOGLE AND APPLE may provide the phones, but VERIZON (which still controls 70% of broadband) knows more about you than ANYONE. It’s why the NSA paid one of it’s first stops there…
P.S.: THAT SHOULD SCARE THE EVER-LIVING SHIT OUT OF YOU. But moving on…
…Because at the end of the day, VERIZON knows it has to go “OTT” (Over the Top) as a VIDEO SERVICE to survive LONG-TERM. And they’ve got the Broadband connection (something NETFLIX lacks and suffers for) to back it up. Verizon is in IN-HOUSE CONTENT, but that’s the secondary tier in the AOL deal.
And if you take nothing else from this article, take this: Here’s why VERIZON COULD DISRUPT:
The fusion of CUSTOMER INFORMATION AND ADVERTISING TECHNOLOGY.
If VERIZON does go “OTT” they can do it without the STANDARD SUBSCRIPTION MODEL (Netflix, Spotify), but literally VIA ADVERTISING and providing the most EXACTING CUSTOMER METRICS because of their NETWORK POSITION.
This one isn’t a game-changer, but it’s worth a deep look.
Hope this helps COLLAPSERS!!!